Managing Election Anxiety
You did it! You voted! Congratulations! Thank you for fulfilling your civic duty and giving the government your input. (Side note: track your ballot here if you voted by mail.)
And now . . . we wait. We’ve already done our part. It’s time to sit back and hold our breath as we anticipate the election results. The thing is, we might be waiting for a while. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, there have been more mail-in ballots submitted in this election than in recent general elections. This increase may prolong the ballot-counting process. But rest assured, a long waiting period isn’t entirely a bad thing. The longer it takes to count the high volume of ballots, the more thorough and accurate we can assume the process to be.
Still, a long waiting period leaves more time for election anxiety to build. And we’ve got a lot on the line.
When Donald Trump won the 2016 election, much of America struggled to accept his presidency, as the hashtag #notmypresident began trending online. I was a freshman in college at the time, and I remember fellow students voicing their disgust for Trump’s personal beliefs and actions. People in the dorms feared DACA rescission. Muslim classmates felt targeted by Trump’s impending travel ban. Other students worried about Trump’s reluctance to condemn white supremacy.
Four years later, America is not in much better shape (depending on who you ask, of course). Trump’s presidency has created a very comfortable climate for racists, xenophobes, homophobes, and the like. He also hasn’t done much, if anything at all, for the women in our country. Really, I could go on.
With many Americans still passionately anti-Trump, the thought of having another four years with him is causing a lot of election anxiety. And right now, we’re in limbo. Scary, right? We don’t know who’s going to win, what will happen to our country, or how all this will affect us on a personal level.
Whatever your situation may be, allow me to offer you some hope. I, like many other human beings, experience anxiety. And I’ve learned a thing or two over the years.
Healthy Mind, Healthy Advocate
While you may be anxious in the weeks to come, there are ways to address and cope with your fears about the election, no matter the outcome. So here’s an acronym to help you manage election anxiety: U.S.A.
U: Understand (Your Anxiety)
Before you can attempt to remedy your anxiety, you must first acknowledge and give weight to your fears about the election. Ask yourself, what exactly about the election and politics is contributing to my anxiety? Perhaps you’re afraid the results will not be what you voted or hoped for. Perhaps the rise in hate crimes during Trump’s presidency scares you. Or perhaps you’re afraid of certain policies and legislation that can affect your life negatively. These types of fears are valid and can easily cause distress.
S: Soothe (Your Anxiety)
There are tons of online resources for managing anxiety. But did you know there are also some for managing election anxiety, specifically?
Meditation is an excellent way to practice mindfulness and combat uncomfortable feelings. Some great election anxiety resources include this meditation from therapist Jor-El Caraballo and this meditation from health and wellness coach Stephanie Wagner. Therapist Brandi Jackson also shares some great tips for reducing election anxiety in this video.
It’s also important to create spaces in which you can open up and talk about your election anxiety. So, call up a friend. Schedule a virtual counseling session. Share your pain with a family member or even with the pages of a journal. Find ways to help ease your election anxiety during (and after) this waiting period.
Anxiety can sometimes give you tunnel vision, urging you to dwell on situations you don’t have control over. Instead, try focusing on what you can control. You may not have the power to pass legislation or put policies into effect, but hey, we still live in a democracy! Don’t forget that we have the freedom to communicate with the elected officials who represent us.
Just because the election is over doesn’t mean your involvement in politics and government needs to stop. For some, this means continuing to create, sign, or share petitions on social media. For others, this means engaging in meaningful discussions about important political issues. If you need ideas for ways to be an advocate in your own life, then you’re in luck. During the month of November, Outspoken will be sharing plenty of ideas for how to remain politically engaged post-election.
Anxiety is totally normal. We’re living in difficult times and it’s easy to feel powerless. So have a pity party, but don’t forget we are resilient. Even under President Trump, we still had one of the largest civil rights movements in American history. The Me Too movement picked up steam in the last couple of years as well. I don’t say this to downplay the atrocities committed during this time, but to remind you what we are capable of. There are always going to be people out there doing good and making change. Be one of them.
Keep Calm and…
Maya Santos, Content Creator